Gas Safety - Part 2
Natural Gas is non-toxic. It is also naturally odorless but a chemical called mercaptan is added to give it the distinct rotten eggs smell. If you smell gas in your home, call 911. You should leave the house and wait for first responders at this point. But, if you are like me and feel the leak is minor and want to address it here are some tips.
- Don’t turn on any lights or create any ignition sources.
- If the leak is coming from an appliance such as a stove or clothes dryer, see if there is a shut off valve to the unit and turn the valve handle so it is perpendicular to the pipe.
- If the leak is stopped and you want to ventilate the structure remember that natural gas is lighter than air and will float to upper floors while propane is heavier than air and will flow downstairs.
- If the leak is significant and not able to be stopped at a remote valve, the main gas line can be turned off where it enters the house. Typically a pipe comes out of the ground and runs through a regulator and meter before entering the house. There is usually a valve on the pipe before it reaches the regulator (the disk-like piece). This will turn off all of the gas to your home but will require a plumber to resume service.
- Use caution when digging. You can call 811 and have the utility companies mark their connections for free. Gas lines are plastic and can be punctured with a good shot from a spade shovel. These lines are only required to be a foot below ground and usually go straight from the gas connection to the street.
If the possible source is not obvious wait for the first responders. They have meters to test the overall gas levels in the building as well as “sniffers” that can pinpoint the exact location of the leak. They will attempt to isolate the leak and minimize the impact on your home/business until your plumber can make the repair.